Re: Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2009 16:07:36 -0500

My colleague and comrade-at-arms, Marc Couture, has done the doable:
He has worked long and hard for the creation of an Institutional
Repository (IR), Archipel (named by him!) at
our institution, UQAM; he has deposited all his own papers therein;
and since then he has worked long and hard (though so far, alas,
unsuccessfully) for the adoption of a self-archiving mandate at UQAM
(and elsewhere). Having done all that for Green OA, Marc can hardly
be described as not having done the doable!

The origin of this discussion thread (on giving the wrong advice on
OA) was a posting, in celebration of OA week, advising that
researchers should boycott commercial journals (as 33,000 biomedical
signatories of the PLoS petition threatened to do in 2000, if their
journals did not become Gold OA -- without the slightest mention of
the Green OA self-archiving they could have done, in exchange for
roughly the same number of keystrokes).

That boycott threat failed, of course, and should not be repeated.
Nor should the failure to self-archive, or the failure to work, as
Marc has done, for Green OA self-archiving mandates.

Nor should institutions or funders provide funds for paying Gold OA
fees without first having mandated Green OA self-archiving:

I certainly was not suggesting that individuals (especially those who
have self-archived, and worked for Green OA self-archiving mandates!)
should not publish in, referee for, or read Gold OA journals! Free
choice of which journal to publish in is as important as providing
free access to its contents.

So, so far I think there is nothing that Marc and I would disagree

The one point on which we may not see quite eye to eye is whether an
individual who (unlike Marc) has not self-archived, nor promoted
Green OA self-archiving for the sake of OA, should promote Gold OA
publishing (or journal boycotting) for the sake of OA.

With so many still unaware (or incomprehending) of the need, or the
power, or even the possibility of Green OA self-archiving and Green
OA self-archiving mandates, I do think it slows OA progress to
promote Gold OA without at least coupling it with the promotion of
Green OA, and its promotion as the far greater priority at this time.

Marc notes that he is "disappoint[ed with] results on the green-OA
front." So am I. But I have also suggested a reason -- actually, at
least 34 of them: -- as to why
these results are still so disappointing, despite the fact that 100%
Green OA is fully within reach with a but a few keystrokes. And
pre-emptive "Gold Fever" -- the belief that Gold OA is the only way
to OA, or the fastest, or the surest, and the promotion of Gold OA
without  assigning clear priority and urgency to Green OA -- is one
(indeed several) of those 34 reasons:

Marc has all the right priorities, both in principle and in practice.
If everyone else did too, there would be nothing for me to keep
banging on about, and the research community could already be
counting the green (and gold!) chicks that had hatched from those
green eggs (85% of which we have alas not yet laid, because the likes
of Marc are still so few, whereas those afflicted with pre-emptive
Gold Fever are many).

(The one point I am not sure I quite understand in Marc's commentary
was "I put more efforts [into] green-OA because I see more immediate,
if not overreaching, results in gold-OA." I'm not sure what Marc
means here: that making one's own article OA by self-archiving it is
a more immediate result than making it OA by publishing it in a Gold
OA journal? Or that creating or promoting a Gold OA journal provides
more immediate results than creating or promoting an Green OA IR? My
hunch is that Marc's real disappointment is with having worked so
hard to create an IR at UQAM, only to fail (so far) to persuade UQAM
to adopt a mandate, and hence to have to witness Archipel lie fallow,
as all other IRs are lying fallow worldwide today, except the 50
institution-wide and 14 departmental/faculty IRs that have adopted
Green OA Mandates. If so, I'm with him there, though I think
consoling oneself with Gold -- rather than redoubling one's efforts
to promote Green mandates is a bit like persisting in searching for
one's keys near the glittering lamp-post...

Stevan Harnad

On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 10:05 AM, Couture Marc
<> wrote:
      On November 9, 2009, 18:22, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> I'm not criticizing the pursuit of other options *in
> to mandating self-archiving, I'm criticizing pursuing
      them *instead*,
> without first doing the doable, and already long overdue.

As one who has worked (and devoted much time) on both Green-
and Gold-OA
in the last few years (though on a definitely smaller scale
than the
global crusade of Stevan's, but the changes must come from both
and local actions) I can't really accept his seemingly

It's not obvious to me that stopping my work on gold-OA issues
(or, if I
follow Stevan's line of thought, delaying it until nearly 100%
has been attained through mandates) would have improved the
results of
my green-OA actions.

I don't think there is something like a total amount of time
and efforts
available, and that these can be directly linked to definite
results, so as one result suffers in direct proportion to the
time/efforts devoted to pursue others.

Furthermore, not being particularly stubborn, I fear that, had
I limited
my actions to green-OA, I wouldn't have found the will to keep
in view of the disappointing results on the green-OA front. So
maybe in
the end, I put more efforts on green-OA because I see more
immediate, if
not overreaching, results in gold-OA.

It reminds me of the struggle against poverty: Should we stop
for a
while working/ fighting/ devoting time or money to help reduce
(or illness, or illiteracy) in rich countries, because the same
or resources could save or improve many more lives in the

So, I would have agreed completely to the following opinion,
instead of
the one quoted above:

> I'm not criticizing the pursuit of other options *in
> to mandating self-archiving, I'm criticizing pursuing them
> without **also** doing the doable, and already long overdue.

The difference lies in one small word.

Marc Couture
Received on Tue Nov 10 2009 - 21:08:27 GMT

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